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Can’t sleep tight when bedbugs bite

By Staff | Nov 13, 2010

The University of Florida IFAS Lee County Extension office held a workshop Friday morning, which attracted 75 representatives from various businesses, along with community members who wanted to educate themselves about bedbugs.
Karen Headlee, Family and Consumer Science Extension agent, said those who attended the workshop were representatives from housing authorities, parks and recreation departments, homeless shelters, health departments, public schools, churches, vacation rentals and hotels, a children’s home, Habitat for Humanity and Lee Memorial Health System.
Headlee said this is the first workshop the extension office has held for bedbugs. She explained that they wanted to educate the community about the insects because after two Lee County Public Libraries were closed due to the biting bugs, individuals started misidentifying them in sightings.
Darcy Small with Fort Myers Pest Control said they have received between seven to 10 calls a week in Lee County for bedbugs. She explained that although there is nothing in the market that can prevent bedbugs from happening, there are techniques that can be applied to get rid of the problem.
Dr. William Kern Jr., associate professor of entomology and nematology of the Ft. Lauderdale research and education center provided a presentation about bedbugs Friday morning.
There are three types of cimicidae bedbugs, which include a common bedbug, tropical bedbug and a bedbug found in West Africa. They feed on human blood and there are approximately 75 species within the family.
Kern said the bedbug has a very broad host range, from feeding on anything from people to parakeets.
“Any warm-blooded prey, they feast on,” he said.
Kern explained that bedbugs do not live on people, but hide in tight crevices that are located behind headboards, wall hangings, under and in the seam of mattresses, in and under night stands, in the bed frame and loose space between carpet and baseboards.
Bedbugs feed at night, typically between the hours of 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. when most people are sleeping. They are attracted to body heat and carbon dioxide. Kern explained that bedbugs will remain on the bedding while feeding instead of crawling onto an individual.
“They have piercing sucking mouth parts,” he said, which consists of a very fine needle that penetrates the skin to allow the bug to feed from a blood vessel.
Often times individuals will experience multiple bite marks because if the bedbug is disturbed while feeding, they will disappear and then come back and feed in a different spot. If not disturbed, they will feed for 3 minutes. Usually the bites will appear in a straight line because if an individual is laying on a surface they will most likely have a line exposed from the covers of where they can feed.
Kern said 70 percent of the bedbugs found will be in close proximity to the bed, 23 percent will be up to five feet away from the bed and 7 percent will be found farther than five feet.
Although bedbugs are mostly found in the bedroom, they have been discovered in other places of a house where individuals sleep.
Kern said if an individual is sleeping on the sofa bedbugs will be found in crevices within a certain distance of the sofa.
Bedbugs are known to aggregate due to it being safer in a tight crevice, easier for the males to find a mate, along with it being easier to survive due to the heat.
Females lay between 200 and 500 eggs over their life span, which typically consists of six-10 clusters of eggs at a time that hatch in approximately seven to 12 days. The eggs, which are whitish in color and one millimeter in length, are attached to surfaces with their stickiness.
The adults are five to seven millimeters long or a quarter of an inch. They can live for up to two months without a blood meal.
He explained that the good thing about bedbugs is there is no known diseases that they transmit.
Bedbugs can be transmitted from one place to another through luggage and belongings from a hotel or motel, dormitories, guest houses, shelters, cruise ships, assisted care facilities, used, rented and hand-me-down furniture, moving trucks and vans, curb side furniture, libraries, airplanes and movie theaters.
They are “almost always carried from one residence to another,” Kern said.
Droplets of blood on bedding and walls can be an indicator of a bedbug infestation.
Treatments to get rid of bedbugs includes chemicals, heat, cold and fumigation. When heat is used, it should be higher than 140 degrees for more than an hour to kill the bedbug.
Kern said fumigation is the only known way to get rid of bedbugs for good.
The best way to control a bedbug problem is to have a proper initial inspection and post treatment inspection done. The inspection includes taking apart furniture, along with searching all crevices.
In addition to pest control companies, dogs, mostly beagles, can be used to find bed bugs. The training typically costs $10,000. When a dog is used, it can find bedbugs in a room in three minutes, a task which typically takes an individual four to six hours to complete.
Homeowners are encouraged to call a licensed pest control company to take care of the bedbug infestation instead of doing it by themselves.
Individuals can check to see if a company is licensed by visiting www.flaes.org.